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Text: Luke 7:11-17
Doctrine: love of God
Image: Life beside death
Need: Comfort for unbelieving loved ones
Message: Spread the report
*Christ's Compassion is Our Hope*
Many of us here this evening come with somewhat heavy hearts.
We love, and appreciate the grace that has been lavished upon us by God.
We thank him for the opportunity to live in a place that is free, that is orderly; a place that we can work and live in relative safety and peace.
Many of us thank God for the new life that he has given us, for the way that he has called us to himself.
But our joy is sometimes in shadow.
Our rejoicing may not have the ringing clarity that it should.
Sometimes our dancing is turned to mourning.
This is because there are people that we love dearly, who we know are not a part of God's people.
We are surrounded by people who have not accepted Jesus as their saviour, and that grieves us.
Our hearts break because our neighbours have been hurt by the church in the past and have no desire to talk about it.
Our hearts break because our cousins no longer go to church.
Our hearts break because our parents have become bitter toward God in their old age.
Our hearts break because our sisters or brothers have pulled away from the Lord.
Our hearts break because our children live lives that do not give evidence to the grace of God.
Our hearts break because our world is still full of pain, and death.
Life and death seem to mix with each other in heart wrenching ways.
Life and death seem to mix in this story as well.
The passage begins with the meeting of two groups of people, two crowds which just happen to cross paths at the gate of an uncircumstantial city.
These groups would have added to the normal craziness of the town gate.
There are always a number of people who hang out there.
This is the place where business transactions are performed, where the elders of the town sit and judge cases, where the old men gather to have coffee.
Coming into the city from the countryside is Jesus.
He is followed, as always, by his band of followers, his disciples, and a large crowd.
Jesus is at the head of this column of people, leading them down the dusty trail toward this small village in the Galilean countryside.
As Jesus and his crowd come near the people gathered around the gate, they meet another crowd coming out of the town.
At the head of this column a dead person is being carried out for burial.
A young man is carried on a bier, a flat platform with the body clearly visible.
This young man is followed by his mother, his grieving, weeping, crushed mother.
A woman who now has no hope.
A woman who has not only lost her husband, but has now lost her only son.
A woman for whom there is little chance for a good life.
A woman who has little protection in a patriarchal society.
A woman who expects little more than a life of extreme poverty, a life which is nasty, brutish and short.
Picture this scene for a moment.
A large crowd coming toward the city with Jesus at the front, a large crowd coming out of the city with a dead man at the front, crossing paths in the gateway to the town, which is always full of people.
Imagine the chaos and the confusion, the shouting, the pushing, the cursing.
A crowd following Jesus, the Lord of life, colliding with a crowd following a victim of death.
This kind of confusion reigns in our world today.
The realms of death and life are mixing in our world.
The realms of fallen creation, and its recreation.
The realms of the devil and of the Christ.
Jesus has come and has initiated the new life, the life of love, the life of salvation, the life of grace, the life of life.
Yet, this life of grace seems to be mixed up with the old life, the life of hate, the life of lies, to life of damnation, the life of death.
This life of death still seems to have power in this world, just as it did while Jesus approached the gate of Nain.
The crowd following Jesus falls back a little as they bow their head in reverence for the mourners coming from the city.
Jesus continues forward and he comes face to face with those carrying the dead man.
He sees the woman, alone at the front of the crowd, weeping over her loss, over the loss of her son, the loss of his future, the loss of her future.
“When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her.”
He had compassion upon her.
He felt for her as he did for the crowds in Mt 9:36, “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Jesus felt for her as he did the two blind men in Mt 20:34 when he healed them.
He felt for the widow as the good Samaritan felt for the Jew who had been attacked by bandits on his way to Jerusalem when he knelt down, bandaged his wounds, and placed him on his own donkey.
He felt for her as the Father felt for the prodigal son when he ran out to greet him on his return.
He was filled with compassion.
His heart broke at the sight of the pain she was bearing.
His compassion for her caused him to say to her, “Don't cry.” or “Stop weeping.”
or “Do not weep.”
Then he walks up to the coffin, to the bier, to the platform on which the dead man was being carried, and touches it.
He ignores the cleanliness laws regarding touching the dead.
He ignores his own reputation.
He comes face to face with the reality of pain, sorrow, and death, and he reaches out his hand, touches the bier, and stops the procession.
Calling out to the dead man he says, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”
Then the dead man sat up and began to speak.
The crowds around him were filled with awe, or as the English Standard Version puts it, “Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, 'A great prophet has arisen among us!'” and “God has visited his people.”
We may be wondering this evening, “If Jesus is moved to compassion because of the mourning of a widow, why does he seem to ignore my pain?”
Many of us have family members who are dead, spiritually speaking.
They have turned their back on the church, on the community of believers, on Jesus himself.
They have chosen to follow their own wills and whims.
They have turned their back on the offer of true life, and have chosen to enter the wide gate and walk down the smooth path that leads to death.
Why does our pain over these people not bring Jesus to the same kind of action he has in this story?
Why do family members, whom we pray for daily, continue to live apart from God? Why are our loved ones allowed to perish separate from God? Why are our families not glued together in the communion of the Spirit?
We do not have answers to these questions.
All we can do is continue to pray, to continue to knock on the door of heaven, to continue to shed tears for those who we know are not enfolded in the flock of God.
All we can do is show Jesus our pain and know that his heart is breaking with us.
We do not understand why some people are called to God and others left in their sin.
We do not know why miracles are performed some places and not others.
The people of Jesus's hometown in Nazareth could not understand why miracles were not performed in his hometown, but they were in other places.
Listen to this from Luke 4:16-30 “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.
And he stood up to read.
The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him.
Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.
The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.
“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!
Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’
” “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.
I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.
Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.
And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
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